Bobby Karl Works the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame

(L-R): Inductees Alan Jackson and Thom Schuyler; Mentor Award winner David Conrad; and inductees John Bettis, Allen Shamblin and Garth Brooks. Photo: Alan Mayor

Chapter 379

Just about everyone you know in the music business turned out for the sold-out, 41st annual Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony at the Renaissance Hotel Sunday (10/16).

The attractions were the inductions of Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Thom Schuyler, Allen Shamblin and John Bettis. Not to mention the companionship galore.

After welcoming remarks by host John Van Mol, the current chairman of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation board, NSAI’s Bart Herbison and Steve Bogard took the stage.

“We’re going to have a spectacular night tonight,” Steve promised. His prophecy was fulfilled.

The annual “10 Songs I Wish I’d Written” NSAI honors went to “American Honey” by Shane Stevens, Cary Barlowe and Hillary Lindsey; “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” by Jim Collins and David Lee Murphy; “Hello World” by Tom Douglas, Tony Lane and David Lee; “Homeboy” by Casey Beathard and Eric Church; “Honey Bee” by Ben Hayslip and Rhett Akins; “Mean” by Taylor Swift; “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer” by Troy Jones; “The Boys of Fall” by Casey Beathard and Dave Turnbull; and “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking” by Earl Bud Lee and John Wiggins; plus the Song of the Year winning “If I Die Young” by Kimberly Perry.

The Band Perry was on the road, but Kimberly sent a video saying, “Thank-you to the Good Lord for whispering it in my ear.”

For the fourth time in five years, Taylor Swift received a standing ovation as the Artist/Writer of the Year. “Just the fact that the people in this room were standing up is overwhelming for me,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m here with my heroes.”

Frequent Brad Paisley collaborator Chris DuBois won his second straight NSAI Songwriter of the Year award. “There’s no award that means more to me as a songwriter,” he said.

The NSHoF’s Van Mol retook the podium to recognize board members, sponsors and the 2011 passings of Hall of Famers Charlie Louvin and Don Wayne. “Their work lives on in our memories,” he said.

Lance Freed presented David Conrad with the Frances Williams Preston Mentor Award. When Almo-Irving wanted to open a Nashville office in 1981, Frances recommended David as its leader. “Over the next 22 years, David Conrad was responsible for 186 top-10 country hits,” Lance recalled. “David worked for the songwriter, not the other way around. He trusted them. They trusted him. He’s a special man who cares deeply about people.”

“This can’t be right: When did I do this?” David blurted, adding that when he was informed of the honor, “Just to be safe, I ran out that week and mentored the hell out of everybody.” He thanked, “My best friend, my best mentor and my true love, my wife Karen.” David also recalled Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley, Harlan Howard and Tom Collins as his own mentors. “You’re really lucky when you have people like that in your life [especially] the ‘serial mentor,’ Frances Williams Preston.

“There was love there: I loved writers and I love songs,” David added. “It’s a circle, as the song says, and I hope we never break it.”

The 2011 Hall of Famers were inducted alphabetically. That meant John Bettis came first. Michael Clark spoke at length about his collaborator, saying, “John is the consummate psychologist, and he’s a communicator.”

Brett James and Wayne Kirkpatrick sang a medley of Bettis hits, including “Heartland,” “Yesterday Once More,” “Slow Hand” and “Human Nature.” Lynn Anderson vividly reprised her 1973 chart-topper “Top of the World.”

“This is the room, isn’t it?” said John in accepting. “This is where we want to be. This is where we all belong. I’m glad we have this room. It’s nice to know we can get together like this and appreciate each other. I thank you very much for the greatest honor I’ve ever gotten. God bless you.”

Allen Reynolds and Bob Doyle did the honors for Garth Brooks. “Who can measure the impact of the songs that have come from Garth’s own pen?” asked Allen. “You’ve been a blessing and an inspiration to many, and we thank you.”

“The songs you’ve written have endured and stayed relevant,” added Bob.

Jenny Yates saluted the inductee with “When You Come Back to Me Again.” Pat Alger sang “The Thunder Rolls.” Stephanie Davis offered “We Shall Be Free.” Kent Blazy did “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” Victoria Shaw sang “The River” and invited the crowd to join her in its last chorus.

“I’m already choked up, because these are my friends, and I love them so much,” Garth responded. He thanked God, his co-writers, his mentors, his parents and his wife, Trisha Yearwood. “This is the home of songwriters. In the music business, the greatest award you can receive is to be called a songwriter.”

Mike Dungan recited Alan Jackson’s accomplishments and hits, adding “This man has made his mark on the world. He has moved away from, but never out of, his humble beginnings. Thank you for making the world a better place.”

The Wrights performed a medley of “Good Time,” “Remember When,” “Chattahoochie,” “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” and “Here in the Real World.” (Adam Wright is Alan’s nephew and was the ring bearer at his wedding.) Taylor Swift sang “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).”

(L-R): The Wrights (Shannon and Adam Wright), Alan Jackson, Taylor Swift and Capitol Nashville Pres./CEO Mike Dungan. Photo: Alan Mayor

Alan reminisced, “I was just stupid enough not to be scared, so we just came up here….and it’s been goin’ pretty good….I just write whatever I feel….It’s just life, and that’s what country music has always been to me. I can’t stand up here and feel worthy when I see that list of names [of prior inductees]. Thank y’all for including me. I feel blessed.”

Don Schlitz and Thom Schuyler are BFF’s, and Don was clearly moved by Thom’s long overdue induction. “There are so many of us who consider him their best friend,” said Don. “For all the songwriters who ever walked on Music Row, he wrote our anthem.”

J. Fred Knobloch kicked off the musical tribute with “Love Will Turn You Around.” Tony Arata followed with “My Old Yellow Car” and “Years After You,” then Fred returned with “Long Line of Love.” Lacy J. Dalton drew cheers with the aforementioned anthem, “16th Avenue.” Jellyroll Johnson backed all three on harmonica.

The always-eloquent Thom responded, “I am honored more than you can know to be a part of this community of songwriters on Music Row. This is the greatest songwriting community on God’s Green Earth. Thank you for setting a place for me at your lovely table.”

Mike Reid lauded Allen Shamblin for writing, “songs that do more than entertain.” Lionel Cartwright provided a medley of Shamblin’s “He Walked on Water,” “Don’t Laugh at Me” and “The House That Built Me.” Wynonna sang “I Can’t Make you Love Me.”

“This is amazing,” said Allen. “It’s a miracle I’m here tonight….For me, growing up, there was food, water, air and songs.” Echoing the theme of companionship and camaraderie that ran through the evening, he added, “You are my families and my friends. I love y’all. This means more to me than I can ever say.”

Like I said, everyone who is anyone was there. That would include such world-class fabulons as Troy Tomlinson, Fletcher Foster, Jerry Foster, Jerry Chestnut, Bonita Hill, Dan Hill, Bobby Braddock, Bobby Rymer, Bob Regan, Tim Wipperman, Tim Fink, Tim DuBois, Gretchen Peters, Pete Fisher, Bucky Wilkin, Becky Harris, Ted Harris, Emmylou Harris, Judy Harris and Harry Chapman.

Luke Laird has four songs on the charts right now, including the current No. 1, “Take a Back Road.” He was schmoozing, as were Dickie Lee, Rick Sanjek, John Scott Sherrill, Sherrill Blackmon, Kenny O’Dell, Kerry O’Neill, Kye Fleming, Kyle Lehning, Paul Kennerley, Shelby Kennedy, Ron Stuve, Ron Cox, Dean Dillon, Mayor Karl Dean, Nashville first lady Anne Davis, Mac Davis, Caroline Davis, Mark Bright, Mark D. Sanders, Pat Higdon, Pam Tillis, Dave Loggins, Dennis Morgan, Dwight Wiles, Dallas Frazier, Dene Anton, Wayne Carson, Wayne Halper, Bill Rice, Barry Coburn, Brett Eldredge, Bernie Nelson, Gary Burr, Holly Bell, Steve & Ree Guyer Buchanan, Woody Bomar, R.C. Bannon and Max T. Barnes.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you: The ballroom also held Joey + Rory, Jody Williams, Andrew Kintz, Andy Childs, Rattlesnake Annie, Anthony Smith, Tia Sillers, Even Stevens, Whitey Shafer and Gilles Godard, whose “Trains I Missed” was recently named the bluegrass Song of the Year at the IBMA awards. Not to mention Celia Froelig, Amy Kurland, Wayland Holyfield, Tracy Gershon, Lori Badgett, Hugh Prestwood, Diane Pearson, Chip Petrie, Roger Murrah, Melanie Howard, Perry Howard, Kathy Louvin, Karen Oertley, Jewel Coburn, Ralph Murphy, Deborah Allen and the irrepressible Shawn Camp.

We dined on huge roast beef portions, scalloped potatoes, asparagus and a julienned vegetable medley, followed by chocolate cake and/or banana pudding cups topped with whipped cream.

It’s a good thing we love each other. The cocktail hour was at 5:00 p.m., and we didn’t leave the ballroom until 10:30. Now that’s companionship.

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